Muhammad Ali And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Denounce Donald Trump’s Demagoguery

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CVn5mOMWUAAFu9iLast Sunday night, in his address to the American people in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris and San Bernardino, President Barack Obama reminded the masses, ”Muslim-Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes.” Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, whose campaign has taken an incendiary if notdownright bigoted tone, tweeted in response he couldn’t recall any of the Muslim sports heroes who the president was referring to:

Well, after the responses this week from Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, two of the greatest athletes of all-time, perhaps Trump’s memory no longer needs any refreshing.Ali (AP Photo/Evan Vucci); Jabbar (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)Ali (AP Photo/Evan Vucci); Jabbar (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Abdul-Jabbar slammed Trump in an Time op-ed that was published Wednesday, comparing the bombastic billionaire’s incessant fear mongering to terrorism.

“The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning, Abdul-Jabbar writes. “I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

“While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.”

Those are strong words from the NBA’s all-time leading point scorer, who converted to Islam as a young adult at the start of his career. Ali, whose conversion to Islam pre-dated Abdul-Jabbar’s by more than a decade, released a statement Wednesday urging political leaders to add perspective instead of stir up hate. Though Ali doesn’t mention Trump by name, it’s easy to infer who his comments are directed towards.

“Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is,” Ali writes.

In addition to being two of the best athletes ever, Ali and Abdul-Jabbar have a long history of political activism. Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, which he explained by saying, ”I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong –– no Viet Cong ever called me N—–,” inspired anti-war protesters across the country. Shortly after Ali’s comments, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. took an ardent anti-Vietnam War stance as well. Abdul-Jabbar once said Ali’s comments deeply resonated with him, too.

Ali’s recent denouncement of demagoguery is especially poignant, because his freedoms were once entrenched upon in the name of national security. Declassified National Security Agency files show the agency tapped into Ali’s overseas phone calls after he spoke out in opposition of the war effort in Vietnam.

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